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The Justice Department reportedly opened a criminal investigation into the Alaska Airlines door blowout

Cameron Manley   

The Justice Department reportedly opened a criminal investigation into the Alaska Airlines door blowout
  • The DoJ opened a criminal investigation into the Boeing 737 blowout, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • Boeing has come under increased scrutiny over the safety of its 737 Max fleet.

The Department of Justice has reportedly opened a criminal probe into the Boeing jetliner blowout that left a hole in the side of an Alaska Airlines plane in January.

Citing unnamed sources, The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that DoJ investigators had contacted passengers and crew members who were on the Boeing 737 Max 9.

On January 5, seven minutes after take-off from Portland, Oregon, a panel that had plugged a space left for an extra emergency door blew off the side of the fuselage. The pilots made an emergency landing.

Alaska Airlines said in a statement: "In an event like this, it's normal for the DoJ to be conducting an investigation. We are fully co-operating and do not believe we are a target of the investigation."

Boeing declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Increased scrutiny

The Journal reported that the investigation would occur in tandem with the DoJ's review of Boeing's compliance with a previous settlement sparked by two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed nearly 350 people.

In 2021, Boeing agreed to pay $2.5 billion as part of the settlement, most of which was compensation for the victims' families. It also agreed to strengthen its compliance program.

On Friday, in a letter to Congress seen by the Seattle Times, Boeing said it cannot find any records for work carried out on the door panel of the Alaska Airlines plane.

The company said in the letter that the records may not have been created as required.

The report came after Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board traded barbs on Wednesday, over whether the company had cooperated with regulators.

In a Senate committee hearing, Jennifer Homendy, the NTSB chair, said Boeing had consistently obstructed the investigation by not identifying employees who worked on door panels and by failing to provide the documents Boeing now says it has lost.

"It's absurd that two months later we don't have that," she said. "Without that information, that raises concerns about quality assurance, quality management, safety management systems [at Boeing]."

After the hearing, Boeing said it had provided the NTSB with the names of all employees who worked on 737 doors.

Boeing said in its letter to Congress that prior to Wednesday's hearing, the company "was not aware of any complaints or concerns about a lack of collaboration."

Last month, the NTSB revealed in a preliminary report that four bolts crucial for securing the 737's door plug had been missing after the panel was taken off to repair damaged rivets last September.

These repairs were carried out by contractors from Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems. However, the NTSB is still unsure about who removed and replaced the door panel, Homendy said Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently gave Boeing a 90-day deadline to outline its plan for addressing quality-control concerns highlighted by both the FAA and an expert panel comprising industry and government representatives.

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